“Why do foreigners kiss a lot?”:
A brief history of kissing
Surfing the Internet today, I came across the longest kiss in film history. In Late Autumn (2010), Hyun Bin, Korean actor, and Wei Tang, Chinese actress, kissed over a long take of 2 1/2 minutes.
China produced its first film in 1905, 10 years after the Lumière brothers projected a moving picture to a paying audience for the first time. In the intervening 100 years, at least 7,000 movies have been produced in China, some deeply affecting people’s lives and outlooks. Around 1909, China with its population of 400 million began to be recognized as the world’s largest cinema market, which myth persists.
In Shanghai, American-Russian businessman Benjamin Brodsky established Asia Film Co., China’s first film company. With the capital and facilities provided by Asia Film Co., Zhang Shichuan and Zheng Zhengqiu, two figureheads in early Chinese cinema, directed The Difficult Couple (1913). It is considered the first Chinese fiction film. At the time, women were not allowed to star alongside men in plays and movies. But less than one year later, Yan Shanshan turned China’s arts community upside down by performing in a male-dominated film, playing the role of a maid in the Hong Kong movie Chuang-tzu Tests His Wife. Brodsky later took this film to the United States, making it the first Chinese movie played in a foreign country. It is a fact that women continued to stir Chinese film audience’s heart, not Kong Fu or panda.
But when a boy named Long only saw kiss scenes in Eastern European films as a child, he asked his father: “Why do foreigners kiss a lot?” His father replied impatiently: “Because they’re foreigners. Only foreigners do that.” Times were special when Long asked his question. Of course, people kissed in Chinese films as early as the 1930s; people kissed in classical literature. In the 1960s, the notion of “class struggle” was paramount. Kissing and hugging were considered capitalist and degenerate.
Today I would like to remember a few moments of Chinese people kissing on the silver screen.
In 1936, Fang Peiling directed A girl’s metamorphosis. In this film, the female lead was a girl who grew up dressed like a boy because of her grandfather’s gender preference. Then one day a girlfriend fell in love with “him”. The two girl’s kiss was a only a light peck on the cheek but it was the monumental first in Chinese cinema.
Romance on Lushan Mountain, produced in 1980, was described in an Agence France-Presse article at the time as being representative of a new trend in Chinese fashion and moviemaking. In fact, this movie was not a great breakthrough, but in the eyes of China’s culturally starved audiences, Romance on Lushan Mountain was a feast. The heroine in the movie changed her clothes dozens of times on the high mountain.
Apart from clothing, Romance touched the heart of the people by way of a little kiss. Dressed in bathing suits, the young female character, with a wild look in her eyes, said to the young man, “You are such a fool, but so adorable,” and pressed her lips slightly onto his face. It was breaking news at the time, for while kissing had been prevalent in the movies of the 1930s and 1940s, after 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, kissing became extinct from the screen. Romance brought it back. 30 years later, lead actress Zhang Yu confessed: “I was so nervous I couldn’t find his lips. I meant to kiss him on the lips!”
Before Romance, the movie Reverberations of Life, released in 1979, had tried to break the taboo of kissing in movies after the Cultural Revolution. However, the director didn’t dare to let the kiss be fully exposed to the audience. As the two young characters are about to kiss each other goodbye, the director deliberately arranged a scenario in which the mother of the young woman suddenly opens the door, putting an abrupt end to any kissing. By doing this, the director also avoided criticism.
And finally, here is the longest ever kiss scene. Enjoy!